She threw the animals into a large pot, stirring the broth slowly. When they tried to escape she would lean over the pot and whisper horrible magic words into their trembling ears. Their eyelids would grow heavy and they quickly succumb to the boiling water. The steam rising from the pot carried the spirits of the animals through the air. The spirits swirled and mixed together creating a terrifying collection of monsters. The Hag spoke again in a loud, commanding voice releasing the creatures onto the poor, pathetic nearby town of Rud. The creatures would torment the children, collecting more spirits for the Hag.
A long, bony girl named Drusilla lived closest to the forest and she was afraid of nothing. Beside her lived her life long friend, a dirty mess of a boy named Crofton – he was afraid of everything. Drusilla knew a secret: the spirits couldn’t hurt children, only frighten them. However, it’s difficult to be brave when a snarling beast is growling beneath your bed, shaking the entire room. The Hag, on the other hand, was not so harmless and had plans for the children’s spirits.
One cold evening Drusilla gathered all the children of Rud. The menacing creatures had to be stopped. Drusilla had a plan, but it was dangerous, deadly. They had to kill the source of the creatures: The Hag. If they killed her then the creatures could sleep the deep sleep of eternity.
The children lined the edge of the forest. The wind screamed past their ears, icy and sharp. The trees’ spidery fingers reached out to grab them. Each child was dressed in rags or sack. They all had twigs and brush protruding from their clothes and bark around their heads. They looked very much like the demons that haunted them. With Drusilla in front and Crofton quivering behind her, they began their descent into the forest. The trees were part of the Hag’s army. They lunged at the children, tore at their clothes and hissed to them.
This way, Olga. Come closer Frederick. This way – thisssss way.
Drusilla urged the children to move on. The toxic swamp would be much more deadly than scary voices.
Once at the swamp Drusilla motioned them to stop, pointing to the slime climbing up the eroded rocks. One tree had grown too close to the poison; half its trunk was eaten away exposing a black tar-filled center. It had fallen across the swamp and landed up against the house. Drusilla began the treacherous trek making sure to avoid the dark sludge. The rest of the children crawled on their hands and knees, not trusting their rubbery, terrified legs. Crofton whimpered as the tar slithered up towards him. Drusilla turned and gave him a brave smile, letting worry wash over her face only after she turned forward again. They climbed onto the porch and gathered under a window. They saw the Hag moving about dumping animals into a pot. Drusilla directed them to surround the house for a surprise attack. She hoped the Hag would see them as the demons she had created coming back for her soul and she would die of fear. Drusilla told them to get ready; the time was near.
As the Hag leaned deep into the pot Drusilla let out a blood curdling shriek and the children lurched forward out of the shadows screaming and hollering. The monster-children charged the Hag but she remained at her pot. Everyone froze; did the plan work? The hag coughed and gagged. She coughed harder and harder until her gagging turned into a cackling laugh. The Hag laughed so loudly it made Drusilla’s blood run cold.
The Hag turned around, “Is that it?”
The children remained silent, afraid.
“You risk your necks climbing through my forest and past my swamp and that’s it?” screeched the Hag. Drusilla swallowed hard. The Hag’s wicked smile turned to a grimace, “IS THAT IT?”
The Hag lunged at them, nails out. The children scattered. The Hag grabbed a little girl by the neck until blood dripped out from under the Hag’s nails. Crofton rushed at the Hag kicking blindly and biting her. She took hold of him by the ear and whispered, “I wonder what you taste like”. Drusilla let out a scream that drowned out the yelps of the children and echoed over the swamp and through the forest. The Hag dropped both children, white as death. Crofton looked at Drusilla who looked over at the Hag and then followed her gaze to the window. Through the dusty pane, hovering in the darkness like a million disfigured lanterns, were the creatures. They had come for the children’s spirits.
The Hag was already at the door when she was met with a million more creatures. She pressed her back into the corner of the room. The creatures glided silently into the house; countless hollow eyes watched the Hag tremble in the corner. She sucked in a breath but before she could let out a scream they were on her, tearing her limb from limb into a tiny pieces.
A wave of relief spread across the children. Drusilla could finally breathe and looked over at Crofton
Abigail, the little girl who the witch had dug her nails into, was on the floor breathing short, raspy breaths. She looked up at Drusilla longingly. Then Abigail’s face changed ever so slightly. Drusilla thought she recognized the look in Abigail’s eyes. She looked over at what was left of the Hag on the floor and back at the little girl. Drusilla realized with horror what was so familiar about the change in Abigail – she had the Hag’s eyes.